Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the inaugural Naples International Film Festival is the excellent selection of short films. Here are equally short reviews of each.
‘THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE’ series
These films will be shown together at 2:45 p.m. Friday at the Silverspot Cinema at the Mercato, 3:45 p.m. Saturday at the Silverspot Cinema and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Norris Center in Cambier Park in Naples.
* Director: Jane McGee
* Length: 15 minutes, 8 seconds
“The Optician” is about a nervous eye doctor, John, who’s in love with his assistant, Barbara. He spends most of his time inside his own head, reasoning with himself about why he should tell her how he feels, but never does. As it happens, he comes across a pair of glasses that magically allow him to see 10 seconds into the future whenever he wears them. He uses his newfound tool to aid him in asking Barbara out, and hopefully make himself happy.
This is a wonderful film that would be great to be seen as a feature, as long as it were done by writer/director Jane McGee. She appears to have a sense of emotion and wit that isn’t exactly easy to come by these days, much less combined. If subject matter of this variety were in lesser hands, I’m sure it wouldn’t amount to so much. There’s an elegance about it that’s endearing, and makes you curious to know what more she has to offer.
‘Le prix à payer’ (‘The Price To Pay’)
* Director: Paul Gayard
* Length: 24 minutes
“Le prix à payer” is a French film (subtitled in English) shot in black and white that tells the troubled story of three jewel thieves. It opens with them having just pulled a lucrative heist. Lucien, one of the robbers, plans on using his share to move to Hawaii with his girlfriend, Anna. A problem arises when the person they’re supposed to sell the jewels to backs out. As it happens, a new buyer is available, but the only way they’ll be able to make the deal is if Anna does it. The exchange goes wrong, and you’re left with a climax that is just plain shocking.
What director Paul Gayard has done is put a new twist on an old tale. He takes the typical jewel heist story and tells it in a way that you can’t quite appreciate until the very end. When it’s over, you immediately want to watch it again because all the pieces have fallen into place. With any luck, Paul Gayard is a name we’ll all be familiar with in the near future.
“You’re Outta Here”
* Director: George Griffin
* Length: 3 minutes, 13 seconds
“You’re Outta Here” is an animated musical about a woman who dumps her lousy boyfriend and kicks him out of the house. It’s an upbeat look at how someone can end a relationship and know right off the bat that they will be better for it. There’s no dialogue involved. Instead, you’re treated to a song titled, you guessed it, “You’re Outta Here.” It is of course sung by our main character, the woman, and gives a history of all the rotten things her now ex-boyfriend did. Overall, the film is funny and empowering. Not just to women, but to anyone who finds themselves in a situation where they’re ready to scream, “You’re outta here!”
‘Max & Helena’
* Director: Prashant Nair
* Length: 9 minutes, 41 seconds
Max is a down-on-his-luck accountant who has had no luck with love. He’s not particularly handsome, and definitely not hip. He’s just a guy. At a local French restaurant he meets Helena, who is beautiful and radiant. For Max, it’s love at first sight. All he has to do is work up the courage to speak to her. That’s easier said than done.
Unfortunately, while this film starts out promising, the overall execution falls flat in the end. I’m sure there’s a message that director Prashant Nair was trying to get across, but it’s carried out in such a way that when the end credits begin to roll ever so abruptly, you’re left scratching your head and wondering, “What was the point?”
* Director: Eddie O’Keefe
* Length: 27 minutes, 43 seconds
“Sun Sessions” is a look at the rise and fall of teenage love. The main character, Henry, is introduced to Jane at a party. They immediately hit it off and experience young love at its best. It’s followed shortly thereafter by experiencing it at its worst with the inevitable break up. From there, Henry desperately tries to win Jane back via the use of a band he’s in. It’s not conventional, but it’s very comical.
It takes about 10 minutes to get into “Sun Sessions,” which when dealing with a film that’s under a half hour, isn’t usually a good thing. But once you’re there you begin to appreciate it. It’s a coming of age tale wrapped up in a ball of teenage iniquity. By the time you’re through watching it, the seemingly Sid Vicious-inspired flick has grown on you, either because you’ve been there before, or you know somebody who has.
‘CUTTING EDGE COMEDY’ series
These films will be shown together at 6:15 p.m. Friday at the Silverspot Cinema, 1:45 pm. Saturday at the Silverspot Cinema and 7 p.m. Saturday at the von Leibig Art Center. Note: One film in this series, “My Four Inch Precious,” was not available for review.
* Director: Coley Sohn
* Length: 9 minutes, 32 seconds
“Boutonniere” is a darkly comic take on the joys of going to prom. It’s about Bethany, a teenage girl getting pressured to go to prom by her overbearing mother (played wonderfully cynical by “Reno 911” star, Wendy McLendon-Covey). Unbeknownst to those around her, Bethany is actually excited about the idea of it, but the thought of going doesn’t sit well.
By the end of the film, you understand exactly why Bethany has such reservations. In fact, it hits you like a punch in the face, and you’re left wondering if you’ve just watched a comedy, or something deeply depressing. Maybe both. Regardless of which it is, it’s all entertaining.
* Director: David Baas
* Length: 4 minutes, 44 seconds
“Skylight” is an animated look at how the hole in the ozone layer is affecting our wildlife. It comes off as a comedy and induces several chuckles by way of its animal characters. Ultimately, though, it is very touching. The film effectively uses humor to drive home a serious point. What’s most incredible is how director David Baas was able to convey his message in such a short amount of time. If in less than 5 minutes, he was able to convince me to go out and try to save the world, I can only imagine what he could accomplish on a feature-length scale.
* Director: Jaime Delgrosso
* Length: 4 minutes, 59 seconds
“Please Recycle” is a documentary-style film about a group of friends who get together every year to rake leaves into piles and summarily jump into them. While on the surface it would appear that’s all the film is about, it’s not. It presents leaf-pile jumping as a therapeutic art form and is a reminder that even the simplest of activities can be the most fun.
‘Good Rules for Bad Guys’
* Director: CJ Niemira
* Length: 12 minutes, 24 seconds
“Good Rules for Bad Guys” is essentially an instructional video for super villains. It’s shot as a throwback to the educational videos of the ’50s and ’60s. It even has your typical horn-rimmed glasses-wearing host, complete with suit and tie. The film covers the basics all super villains should master in order to be better at taking over the world. For an average Joe such as myself, with no prospects for world domination, it wasn’t very educational, but it was laugh-out-loud hysterical. “Good Rules” is as satirical as they come, and when it’s over you say to yourself, “Man, I wish it were longer, ‘cause I could watch that all day.”
* Director: Bruno Vaks
* Length: 3 minutes, 32 seconds
“Smile” will make you do just that. It’s about a mother who decides to share her son’s happy grin with the whole city. And she does just that. With a quick flick of her wrist, she throws the smile out the window where it magically appears on a fruit peddler’s face. He decides to share it with someone else, and so on and so forth. Before you know it you’re smiling just as widely as the people on screen are. It’s a cheer-inspiring film that will keep you happy a lot longer than the three and a half minutes it’ll take you to watch it.
‘The Bronx Balletomane’
* Director: Jeremy Joffee
* Length: 31 minutes, 2 seconds
“The Bronx Balletomane” tells the story of a man’s secret dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Federico Castelluccio (whom you’ll recognize as Furio from “The Sopranos”) plays Joey, a widowed, out-of-shape security guard, and father to a little girl. He sits on the stoop with his pals portraying the stereotypical tough guy. However, when he’s alone, all he can think of is ballet. When his daughter has a rough day at dance class, he agrees to take a ballet class of his own to make her feel better. From there, he begins to realize his dream.
Through the first half of the film I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to laugh at what was going on, or be sympathetic. Everything came off as a bit too over the top, which made the events comical, but not in the way I’m sure the director had in mind. Midway through, though, I could tell that the film was intentionally trying to be funny, but it still didn’t work for me. While there were a few humorous moments, overall the film suffered from being too melodramatic.
‘THE ARTS’ series
These films will be shown together at 3 p.m. Friday at the Silverspot Cinema and 7 p.m. Friday at the von Leibig Art Center, across from Cambier Park in Naples.
‘Patience of the Memory’
* Director: Vuk Jevremovic
* Length: 6 minutes, 29 seconds
“Patience of the Memory” is an animated short that utilizes various paintings, drawings and sketches of the city of Dresden by “bringing them to life.” It does this by making the images dance and flash, accompanied by a sound track that is oddly soothing. To say watching it was a psychedelic experience would be like saying that a bird has wings. Obvious.
“Patience” has something much more to it than that. It worms its way into your head and stays there for a while. The arrangement of the pictures in conjunction with the arrangement of the music allows for a very melancholy viewing experience. It either puts you in a mood to listen to Pink Floyd, or to sit and ponder if what you just saw actually meant something, or was merely just a montage of cool images. It definitely meant something to me, although what I’m not entirely sure. Maybe that was the point.
* Director: Jim Capobianco
* Length: 9 minutes, 31 seconds
“Leonardo” is an animated film that chronicles the conception and experimentation of some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous designs. The star of the film is Da Vinci himself, portrayed as a character that’s drawn in such an endearing way that he would fit right in with the cast of a Disney/Pixar movie. Toward the beginning, you see images of some of Da Vinci’s blueprints, and realize that the animation style is based off of them. It’s creatively simple.
Although by today’s standards the animation would be considered crude, in its crudity lies the film’s charm. And this is a charming little movie. It has a hopeful message and ends on an extremely high note that, as cliché as it sounds, makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Couple that with the amazing music, performed by Sirinu, and you have a short film put together by someone you’d really like to see more from.
‘Amelie and Alchemy’
* Director: Konstantin Brazhnik
* Length: 6 minutes, 4 seconds
“Amelie and Alchemy” is a documentary-style film about a chemist who wants to take a picture of his 4-year-old daughter, Amelie. He’s not interested in doing it in just any old way, though. He’s interested in doing it in an extremely old way. It’s a mid-19th century process known as wet plate collodion ambrotype. What that involves, basically, is taking a picture with a camera about the size of a 32-inch TV where the person being photographed can’t move for 15 seconds, or else the picture won’t come out properly.
While it’s a fascinating look at this lost art of photography, Amelie is the real star of the show. She’s cute as a button, and the fact that a 4-year-old can remain still for 15 seconds to have her picture taken is simply mind-blowing.
The Movie Dude, Joe Altomere of Fort Myers, grew up in his parents’ video store in Plantersville, Texas. He owns close to 2,000 DVDs and Blu-ray discs and considers that only the start of his collection. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org